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Birding Report At Presqu'ile Provincial Park, this has been the week of the gulls. At a time of year when other birds become scarce, these birds, frustratingly difficult to identify but rewarding to those who can pick out the unusual individuals, are the star attractions for the hard-core birders.
A Brant was on the beach on October 31. A Snow Goose with a flock of Canada Geese in the marsh on November 1 may have been the same individual that has been seen a few times in the general area lately. Three species of swans have been in the Park this week, including a Trumpeter Swan in Presqu'ile Bay on November 3 and as many as six Tundra Swans off Gull Island on the following day, three in the water and three that flew over. Four Gadwalls have been in the marsh for almost a fortnight. A Black Scoter was in the outer part of Presqu'ile Bay on November 5. There have been many loons in the offshore waters, three of which were Red-throated Loons in Popham Bay on November 2.
An adult Bald Eagle flew high over High Bluff Island on November 2. A dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk on November 6 was one of very few other raptors seen this week. Among the seven species of shorebirds still lingering at Presqu'ile this month were four Black-bellied Plovers on November 6, two Greater Yellowlegs in the marsh on November 4, a Pectoral Sandpiper on November 2, and as many as five Purple Sandpipers on November 2. Although none of that species has been seen since then, there will likely be more during the next few weeks, as Presqu'ile is one of their only favoured haunts in Ontario.
As mentioned above, gulls have been the story this week, with nine species and an additional hybrid being identified among the many thousands in Popham Bay. The first Little Gull spotted in the Park this year was an adult off Owen Point on November 6. A Thayer's Gull seen from just outside the Park on November 3 was probably moving to and fro across the Park boundary. Iceland Gulls were seen on several days and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on November 4. Probably the highlight was a Black-legged Kittiwake first spotted just outside the Park on November 3 and re-located several times as recently as November 6 within the Park.
Single Snowy Owls have been seen almost every day, but not always the same bird. Three were seen on October 31. One of the favourite locations is Sebastopol Island. Birders visiting the Park at this time of year are attuned to the possibility, albeit remote, of finding a Boreal Owl or a Cave Swallow. The former is being reported from at least two other Ontario locations where the species is not a resident, and the latter has in recent years made forays into Ontario from the south in November.
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was at the lighthouse on October 31 and November 1. For the first time since March, no warblers were reported. Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow were all found during the past week but have mostly moved on. A lone Lapland Longspur stopped briefly on Gull Island on November 2. A dozen White-winged Crossbills were at the Park store on November 2.
To reach Presqu'ile Provincial Park, follow the signs from Brighton. Locations within the Park are shown on a map at the back of a tabloid that is available at the Park gate. Visitors to Gull Island should be prepared to wade through shin-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.